For many years, the entire tourism industry including this writer have campaigned and celebrated Synagogue Church of All Nations [SCOAN], as the ultimate attraction that would put the country on the world tourism map.
No doubt, the church has the capacity to pull and attract many visitors to the country, but many are now worried that Nigeria put all her eggs in Synagogue Church basket taking into consideration the challenges and altitude of members’ in-charge of visitors’ appointment and visitation to the church.
Whilst many people are willing to visit SCOAN in search of solution to their problems are very few in numbers compared to those who wanted to come out of curiosity, they could not get basic information on what to do and from which quarter to obtain such from.
However, the recent announcement by Prophet Temitope Balogun Joshua, General Overseer, SCOAN, that he would be relocating abroad has put a dent on his reputation and put off many of his sympathisers among ordinary Nigerians.
African Travel Times magazine investigations revealed that many Nigerians that were spoken to said, the general overseer has done himself a disservice by that announcement. According to them, the option of relocating abroad will give him a bad image and a fugitive-like status.
Meanwhile, hundreds, if not thousands of Nigerian around the communities of Ikotun, Isolo, Igando, Ejigbo and Egbeda that have been benefitting from the commercial activities emanating from visitors to the church, are not pleased with the planned move.
Many who spoke to this publication in the past noted with sadness that the eventual departure of TB Joshua abroad will not only affect the communities mentioned above, but has started having negative impact already.
One major reason why Nigeria cannot continue to rely on the successes and name that SCOAN has made for itself, is its inability to open the church regularly to visitors to tour.
Sources in the church told African Travel Times that for security reason, its doors are closed to the public, except on Sunday’s for church service alone, unlike churches and mosques that are regarded as landmarks across the world that are regularly opened to the public.
Some tour operators, who also spoke to this publication, lamented their frustrations and inabilities to get feedback to enquiries, on how to package visit for local and international visitors that want to visit the church out of curiosity.
It is either their emails were not responded to or phone calls not returned when they call the church for information.
As for the Lagos State Government and its Ministry of Tourism, Culture and Arts, it must start a fresh relationship with SCOAN because the church holds key to it becoming a major destination in West Africa.
Also, the federal government must also swallow its pride and direct the Federal Ministry of Information, Culture and Tourism, as well as the Nigerian Tourism Development Corporation [NTDC] to work with the church in taking advantage its popularity and fame have provided to encourage more visitors into the country.
We must also know that Synagogue will not be relevant to our travel and tourism industry forever, as the likes of Jerusalem and Mecca have enjoyed and still enjoying now for several centuries.
Prophet TB Joshua will not live forever and its relevance can and will only remain with us now that he is still alive.
Finally, Synagogue must make conscious efforts to ensure more people visit the church, which is the only way it would get the deserved recognition from Nigeria and Nigerians.